Road salt is one of those necessary evils in life — it’s needed to keep roads drivable in ice and snow, but extremely damaging to your vehicle. Every year, the Missouri Department of Transportation drops as much as 129,000 tons of salt on state roads, including those in the Kansas City, Independence, and Lee’s Summit areas. The salt works to lower the freezing point of water, thawing frozen asphalt and preventing more ice from forming.
Over time, the salt and any additional chemicals used by road crews to melt ice can be corrosive to your car’s exterior, including its paint. What’s worse, the salt can work its way into small crevices in your vehicle’s underbody and corrode any metal surfaces. Leave it to do its damage, and you could face high repair bills as metal parts on your car or truck fail.
But you can prevent road salt from taking a toll on your vehicle with a few simple steps.
Rely on Wax
In the 1970s and ’80s, about half of all car owners waxed their vehicles religiously. They knew that a protective coat of wax kept road salt, UV rays, bird messes, bug guts, and other nasty stuff from penetrating the paint and ruining the finish. Today, estimates are that about 79 percent of people nationally DON’T wax their cars. It’s time-consuming and hard to see the payoff.
But Missouri’s roads in winter and the use of road salt, brine, and other chemicals make waxing a necessity if you want to keep your paint looking nice and prevent rust from taking hold. It’s also a good idea to fill in any chips in the paint larger than the point of a pencil with matching paint or a protective clear coat to keep corrosion and rust from forming. This will keep your vehicle looking nice for years to come and can get you a higher trade-in value when it’s time for new wheels.
The Car Wash, Yeah
Washing away salt and dirt from underneath your car is key to preventing salt-caused corrosion. The problem is that high-pressure water jets can force salt deeper into the small crevices in your car’s undercarriage, so you need to be careful about how the job is done.
Commercial car washes offer undercarriage sprays that reach the bottom of your vehicle at just the right pressure to wash off any corrosive build-up. Plus, they’re generally easier and more effective than doing it yourself. Plan to make the trip every couple of weeks while salt is on the roads, and visit immediately after a storm to wash off the worst of the salt. Don’t forget to give your car or truck one last wash as spring approaches to make sure all the harmful residue is gone. A happy car is a washed car.
(As always, when you bring your car in for maintenance at our Lee’s Summit auto service center, you can expect your vehicle will return washed.)
Put the Brakes On
In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the results of a study they did to find out why brake lines were failing on GMC trucks. They found out that it wasn’t just one manufacturer — many drivers in northern states were falling victim to bad brakes. Their conclusion was that the zinc-aluminum alloy used to coat brake lines and systems was particularly susceptible to damage from road salt. Since the mid-2000s, manufacturers began moving to nylon and plastic coatings for brake components, but many cars still have the older type of brake lines.
Even if your car was manufactured after 2007, when new types of brake lines became more commonplace, it’s important to have brakes checked regularly by a qualified mechanic. Be particularly alert for signs of leaks or changes in the feel of your brake pedal, which could indicate a major problem. To schedule a brake inspection in Lee’s Summit, make an appointment online.
Look Into New Technology
Owners of new high-end or collector vehicles are the first to experiment with ceramic over-coating, though many people who simply want to protect their daily drivers are turning to the service. A clear liquid is applied in layers and protects paint, glass, trim and even the undercarriage. Over several hours, the ceramic coating hardens on the vehicle’s exterior and forms a protective — yet invisible — shell.
The typical coating process includes a base coat and top coat, which can last as long as 5 years. In the Kansas City area, getting the coating applied isn’t cheap, as consumers can expect to spend upwards of $1,000 for the service.
As a car owner in Kansas City, road salt may be your nemesis as well as a blessing. But protective coatings, regular washing and inspections by your mechanic after each winter season can keep your car in the best possible shape for years to come. Head to our McCarthy Chevy service center in Lee’s Summit, and you’ll say bye-bye to all that nasty road salt in no time. Contact us at 816-356-6611 to make an appointment, or simply swing by our Lee’s Summit location at 945 SE Oldham Parkway to speak with a professional.